The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the authorities to shift the octogenarian Telugu poet Varavara Rao from Taloja jail to Nanavati Hospital for 15 days, while taking note of his critical medical condition.
The bench comprising of Justices SS Shinde and Madhav Jamdar observed, “Ultimately the man is on almost death bed. He needs some treatment. Can the state say, ‘No, no we will treat him in Taloja?’.”
“We are only saying transfer him to Nanavati for two weeks. We will further see after two weeks,” said the bench while also directing that Rao’s medical reports have to be submitted before the Court.
The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for 3rd December 2020.
Rao, who was arrested in 2018 in connection with the Elgar Parishad’s case is lodged in the Taloja jail.
Arguments by Counsels
Senior lawyer Indira Jaising, appearing for Rao, said that he was completely bed-ridden and without a medical attendant. “He is in diapers and has a catheter,” she said. “The catheter was not changed for three months, as there was no one to change it,” she added while asserting that there is a “reasonable apprehension” that Rao will die in custody. Jaising further accused the Maharashtra government of negligence.
Meanwhile, after taking instructions from the government, the Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare informed the bench that the State of Maharashtra has no objection to shifting Rao to Nanavati hospital. However, the prosecutor submitted that the case should be treated as a special case and not as a precedent.
Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), objected to shifting Rao to Nanavati Hospital and submitted that JJ Hospital (Government Hospital) has sufficient facilities.
However, Jaising submitted that “Rao’s capability for the intake of food is compromised. His monitoring can only happen in a super specialty hospital and not in Taloja jail.” She further argued that courts have held that when it comes to medical bail, provisions of Criminal Procedure Code have to be followed over Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Subsequently, the Bombay High Court bench directed the authorities to immediately shift Rao to Nanavati Hospital, while adding that he should not be discharged from the hospital without informing the court. The bench further directed the authorities that Rao’s family should be allowed to meet him at the hospital.
In July, Rao was shifted to the state-run JJ Hospital after a prolonged illness and a serious delay in medical attention. When his family visited him, they found him in a “pool of urine” and Rao seemed to be delirious.
Tests showed that he had contracted COVID-19, and he was shifted to St George’s Hospital. He was later shifted to Nanavati hospital for neurological treatment. In late August, he was sent back to jail after his treatment for COVID-19 was completed.
Last week, the Bombay High Court had only allowed Rao a medical examination through video conferencing, even though his counsel argued that he should be shifted to Nanavati Hospital. Jaising had told the court that Rao’s “condition is deteriorating day by day” and added that conditions of his detention were “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.
Therefore, on Tuesday, the HC instructed the Maharashtra government to provide details of Rao’s medical examination to his wife after she moved the High Court to shift Rao to Nanavati Hospital.